There are very few places that are so viscerally associated with one cultural figure as is Baltimore with John Waters. And though he maintains an apartment in New York City (and can often be spotted out on the town), he still ultimately calls the Maryland city home.
So it’s something of an “at long last” that the venerable Baltimore Museum of Art has just opened a monumental career survey on the provocative but eminently lovable filmmaker, fittingly titled John Waters: Indecent Exposure.
Launching his directorial career in 1968 with Eat Your Makeup, he would go on to have a string of hits from 1981 – 1994, including the by now camp classics Polyester, Hairspray, Cry-Baby and Serial Mom. The beloved Hairspray, of course, would go on to become something of a cottage industry unto itself.
The exhibition enlightens as to precisely how he matter-of-factly created his singular, inimitable aesthetic, exalting in the low-brow, the trashy and the humorously sexual. With more than 150 photographs, videos, installations and sculptures, it’s a journey through an outlandish, always hilarious America, as only John Waters could have possibly interpreted it all. It also reminds of what a fearless provocateur he has always been, especially when it came to challenging gender norms. (A socio-cultural battle that yet still rages on.)
Waters himself once famously said, “I pride myself on the fact that my work has no socially redeeming value.” Indecent Exposure is the perfect opportunity, then, to discover exactly what he meant by that.
(N.B. The exhibit runs until January 6. But Baltimore is the perfect autumn destination; read here our recent story on the city.)